Quotation for the new year

For anyone who is currently contemplating their January exam revision through bleary eyes and wondering what the point of their maths degree was supposed to be, here’s a possible answer from the lawyer and philosopher Francis Bacon:

In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except it be that men do not sufficiently understand this excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual.  For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it.  So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures, so in the mathematics that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.

[The Advancement of Learning, 1605, section VIII(2)]

Happy New Year! Have fun, but I hope your “wit and faculties intellectual” are thoroughly remedied by the time you return to campus…

(DP)

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